Casino Del Sol gambles on expansion

BY STEVE SPAULDING OF CONTRACTOR'S STAFF TUCSON, ARIZ. Since the passage of the Indian Gaming Regulation Act in 1988, Native-American-run casinos have sprung up all over the Southwest. Now, thanks to the population boom in that region of the country, financiers and developers have found these casinos can compete for part of the huge amount of gambling money that would normally go to Las Vegas provided

BY STEVE SPAULDING
OF CONTRACTOR'S STAFF

TUCSON, ARIZ. — Since the passage of the Indian Gaming Regulation Act in 1988, Native-American-run casinos have sprung up all over the Southwest. Now, thanks to the population boom in that region of the country, financiers and developers have found these casinos can compete for part of the huge amount of gambling money that would normally go to Las Vegas — provided they can do two things:

  1. Attract gamblers with a high-end gaming experience, which includes dining and accommodations, and
  2. Offer enough physical seats at enough tables to take advantage of the increased traffic.

Leo A. Daley Co. had already completed a number of casinos-when it was called in to redevelop the Pascua Yaqui Pueblo's Casino Del Sol by the tribe's new management team. Leo A. Daly has been in business since 1915 and is a leading privately held architecture and engineering firm.

The company tackles a wide range of projects, including corporate interiors, universities, hospitals and municipal work. It also has a Las Vegas office for Nevada gaming and several offices that do Native American gaming.

"They already had an existing facility," said Tom Andrews, a senior mechanical engineer who has worked at Leo A. Daly for 16 years, of the Casino Del Sol project. "But they wanted something a little more modern and a little more eye-catching."

Eye-catching may be an understatement; by the time the second phase of construction was completed in fall of 2002, the Casino Del Sol near Tucson was a 225,000-sq.-ft. facility and the largest casino in Arizona. It features a 4,400-seat open-air concert amphitheater, a nightclub, a 36-lane bowling alley, a 900-seat bingo hall, an arcade and five restaurants.

The design and installation of the casino's mechanical systems posed a number of challenges. First and foremost, keeping the mechanical room as small as possible in order to maximize the amount of floor space available for gaming. Next, because it was a multi-phase project, the system needed to allow for the easy increase of system capacity.

Also, because casinos are one of the few remaining spaces where people are free to smoke indoors, the system had to operate on 100% outside air. All this in an area that is not as forgiving as it looks.

"Tucson is kind of a dusty environment," Andrews told CONTRACTOR. " Also a cooler environment than you might think. Night and in the winters you're going to get down to the high 20s, low 30s, and you don't need a boiler room opened up to that kind of temperature."

A key component of the solution was the Copper-Fin II boiler from Lochinvar, he said. He selected the boiler based on its durability and its abilityto meet the project's needs. Multiple-boilers also can be ordered with a factory-built frame that allows them to be stacked, saving on space.

"It's a modular system with simple operation and very reliable," Andrews said. "Basically, within the footprint of a 2 million Btuh boiler we were able to get 4 million Btuh."

During phase one, two Copper-Fin II 1 million Btuh water heaters, one 940-gal. storage tank and four Copper-Fin II 2 million Btuh boilers with supply/ return temperatures of 180°F/140°F were installed.

The Copper-Fin II boilers serve the heating coils for seven 15,000-cfm air-handling units, plus the terminal reheat coils in VAV boxes. Another eight Copper-Fin II boilers were installed in phase two, serving numerous terminal heating coils throughout the casino. The actual installation was handled by Tri-City Mechanical. The mechanical room has enough space for four more boilers, should the tribal leadership decide to expand the casino.

The multi-phase construction was a key part of the project's financing.

"We actually built phase one, which was around 70,000 or 80,000 sq. ft., with a temporary central plant," Andrews said. Which means that during phase two, "We were building about 150,000 sq. ft. while the original 70,000 was operating and generating revenue."

Direct venting solved the 100% outside air requirement. Controls were straightforward ALS, automated logic.

The system has been running very well for the casino owners, he said. The next phase — still in the talking stages — is another expansion of the casino, and possibly the addition of a hotel.

In the meanwhile, Leo A. Daly and Tom Andrews are hard at work on a different casino project. That more high-end gaming facilities are coming to the Southwest is a pretty safe bet.